Friday, December 21, 2012

Can Anything Good Come from Bad "Art"?

The television show Gossip Girl ended this week, hence the reason art is in quotes in the title. I dislike it so intensely and absolutely refuse to entertain the idea that by the end of its run it had any merit. This isn't for the reasons you might think--that it was supposed to be a soapy, teen drama, but rather because the writers consistently rewrote their story as they went along. Yes, it's true that this happens to a degree on all television shows, but Gossip Girl has got to hold some kind of record for continuously changing and making up the story as they went along. It's hard to illustrate the degree to which this happened, but if you watched the show, think: Chuck's parents. Both of their stories were completely ridiculous but perhaps Bart's takes the cake since he rose from the dead. And you know, maybe I could have handled it, even enjoyed it, if it wasn't actively insulting to me as a woman and decent human being. I've already said enough about this in the past, but as I read what transpired in the finale (I stopped watching last year) I was both unsurprised (the show has consistently done the worst thing imaginable) and kind of sad. Because the way the show ended rendered it as nothing more than absolute crap, all along, they actually managed to retroactively ruin the good things about the show with their ludricrous "reveal" at the end. (which by the end, I just do not in any way consider the true end to the show, I never ever thought I'd be one of those people!!)

But...the show kind of gave me a lot, too? Like obviously I met some truly fantastic friends in the fandom, but there was also the way I engaged with the show last year that I kind of miss and also appreciated. Gossip Girl was somewhat pretentious and used literature as a reference point for characters. (and also plots but that was more disastrous) And I read three books for the show last year, and wrote at length about how two of them influenced the way I saw the characters. sounds kind of weird to say but in so doing I sort of fell in love with those characters I imagined in my head from my reading and the show. (they never really existed, sadly, as the show basically erased everything about their characters plot to plot.) But the influence has extended beyond Gossip Girl, I think, like...I feel like what happened is that a deeper empathy was carved into me for this kind of character or person. I'd like to think person! And because Gossip Girl failed to deliver on the stories of these girls, I feel like there's a part of me that attaches to characters that feel like them to some degree. Like, I think part of my attachment to Juliette Barnes on Nashville is because I see bits of what Ivy could have been, but Juliette is a more thoughtfully and carefully crafted character, layered with motivations, etc.

It's so funny because at the time, I liked that there was a way for me to go "deeper" into the show through literature, film, etc. Yeah, it was super pretentious, but it gave me a framework for the characters that enabled me to care about them more, and I even sort of admired their ambition. Now, I think it's such a shame that such a terribly written show would have so much exposure to such great works and learn nothing from them. You can invoke Fitzgerald and Wharton's names, but that doesn't mean you know anything about them.

So I don't know, it's stupid because I gave the show up months ago, but thinking about the end and how completely horrible it was and all of the things it could have been still kind of makes me sad. And I can't really write the experience off as a waste of time, either. I mean I guess in a way it's good that because of the show I read those books and tried to understand the point of view of those characters, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm attached to that experience and I don't exactly know how to reconcile that feeling with the contempt and disappointment I feel for the show.

And it's also just kind of sad because there's nothing I feel interested in, in the same way right now. When Borgen was on, I thought about it a lot. I think it's a very rich show and so gorgeously constructed it almost hurts me. But the limited English language speaking fandom really hinders my ability to engage in the same way? Or maybe it's just because the show isn't in English to begin with, there's so little reading to be done about it. But you know, I hear people say that shows that are inferior in quality are easier to get zealous about because you have to fill in so many blanks on your own, but I just don't agree with that. I think there are plenty of interesting discussions to be had about better shows. (Borgen!!)

Anyway, it's interesting for me to think about my experience with Gossip Girl, because I was so invested in something that was ultimately not worth my time at all and I guess I'd like to think there was something redeeming to it. (besides, of course, the aforementioned friends, they are the besssst) And it's really weird to think that something redeeming stands so independently from the work itself.

PS. Gossip Girl is objectively bad, no if ands or buts, in the eye of the beholder, etc. I mean it had potential to have worth despite it's mess, but it chose not to embrace that. So this isn't like some other things where there's a discussion to be had about different kinds of values. I would have been willing to have that discussion about this show a year ago, but not anymore. It was JUST BAD.


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